The world has been faced with two back to back crises over the recent years, and while COVID-19 may feel like a distant memory, many of us are still experiencing its effects. Staying indoors has saved us money on commutes, eating out and travelling but the urge to get back to all those exciting things is stronger than ever… but COVID-19’s financial impact has put a spanner in the works. So, combining the tight purse strings with the desire to explore, we’ve put together the perfect way to experience the Big Smoke on a budget. London is nothing short of an icon of a city, a superpower of a metropolis that sits among the global heavyweights of Paris, New York and Sydney. And while it usually has a price tag to match, there’s also a cheaper side to the city that will still give you the full London experience – keep on reading to find out how.

Budget on the Bus

Wandering around the heart of the city on a sunny day is a dream and while London is very walkable, if you’re on a time crunch, you might be seeking a quicker way to soak up the famous landmarks. Around Westminster, it’s common to see people working for bus companies to entice you to go on an open-air bus tour across the city, promising to allow you to hop-on and hop-off so you can explore the city at your own pace. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately these will set you back a minimum of £30 but we’ve got a hack that’ll save you some money and give you a similar, if not better, experience.

London has one of the best transport systems in the world – the double-decker red buses are an icon for a reason! Many of the public buses travelling through the heart of the city take the scenic route around the likes of London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and more, so head to the top deck and gaze out of the window like you’re in your very own romantic comedy. A single pay-as-you-go bus journey is just £1.75, and Transport for London has a Hopper fare which means you can take unlimited bus journeys within an hour for the same price, perfect for getting off and exploring before catching your next bus. Oh, and there’s also a daily cap of £5.25 when using the same contactless card! Not only is this cheaper and more efficient, the covered buses will keep you sheltered from the unpredictable London weather – a win-win-win! 


Spend Pennies at the Pub

London’s restaurant scene has boomed over recent years, and while British food doesn’t have the best reputation overseas, locals and well-versed visitors will tell you that this is a gross misconception – the key is knowing where to go. Exceptional restaurants can be found in any corner of the city but Mayfair, Shoreditch and Soho are considered the culinary triple threat and it’s safe to say the better restaurants in these areas are likely to have a price tag to match. So, if you’re watching the purse strings, head to a gastro pub in one of these locations, which have all of the atmosphere without the fine dining bill. And no, it’s not all pints and pork scratchings – expect quality British food of decent portions and extensive drinks menus, promising there’s something for everyone. Nine times out of 10, there’ll be a pie variation and fish and chips on the menu but you’ll also likely find steaks, risottos, pastas, healthy choices and more, not to mention plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. While eating out is never a cheap affair, this option is the perfect way to save a little and enjoy a lot. Oh, and although London doesn’t have a tipping culture, restaurants can add an optional 12.5% service charge to your bill – our top tip? Order at the bar of the pub instead of waiting for table service; you’re much less likely to have this percentage presented on your cheque.

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See Les Mis for Less 

What’s London without a trip to the sparkling lights of the West End? A Theatreland that gives New York’s Broadway a run for its money, you can expect to see everything from Matilda to Mamma Mia. However, it goes without saying that going to the theatre is a luxury. Luckily, there are many ways to grab savings on great shows – our favourite is going to the ticket booth in Leicester Square in the early evening to get last-minute seats for performances happening on the same night. These are usually heavily discounted and sometimes even half price, and they’re even cheaper if you and your party opt to sit separately to fill isolated seats. Also, you’re guaranteed to save money on midweek matinee performances. Or why not take your chances on the theatre ticket lottery? Book of Mormon, Hamilton, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child offer a regular lottery which offers a limited number of cheap tickets ranging from £1020 per performance. 

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Save Money at the Markets 

The UK capital is one of the best cities in the business of retail therapy with the likes of outlet shopping, iconic department stores and the world-famous Oxford Street. But don’t settle for high street prices, head to the markets instead and bag a bargain! Daily and weekend markets are in abundance in London, and you’re likely to stumble on a few unintentionally as you wander around the city. The likes of Spitalfields, Camden, Seven Dials, and Borough Market are incredible for delicious and affordable street food – think hog roasts, Japanese, seafood, sweet treats and more. If fresh blooms are your thing, you can’t go wrong with Columbia Road Flower Market where early Sunday risers can get the best selection of florals, but it’s always best to visit when the market is winding down as this is when vendors slash their prices. For a bit of everything (and the ultimate Notting Hill vibes), head to Portobello Road Market. It’s known for being essentially five markets in one; fresh produce; clothes and fashion; antiques; second-hand goods; and household essentials. The perfect shopping trip! 

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